Sunday, 13 November 2016

Byproducts of Racism

One of my earliest memories is of when my family lived in Harlow, Essex. One of the things that is still clear to me is how scared, no- terrified my parents and grandparents were. I was only about 3 or 4 at this point, and to see older people so alarmed was terrifying. Our house had been egged- but from what I've been told it wasn't the first time this had happened. But that is the only time I remember it happening. I also remember men shouting, "P*#i, p*#i p*#i!" and "Go back" at the door as they threw the eggs. I remember my parents saying something about them being 'skinheads'.

Another time, I remember our garden fence been spray painted with that horrendous word on it and another time, it being smashed. I remember my father and grandfather painting over the fence and fixing it silently, as quickly as possible- the fence was what kept them away from us. Just thinking back to those days makes my chest tighter, and only recently have I realised how this affected my parents and now me.

My parents, especially my father, tried to ensure we were always safe, the house that I last lived in with my family had a big gate, no one could get into the grounds very easily and our parents always knew where we were. It was surrounded by overgrown bramble and hawthorn bushes, all 2 acres of it. It looked like the big spiky bushes from Sleeping Beauty that the witch created to keep people out. Ours was left like that for a similar purpose.  He bought that house because it was on a private road; no one went there without reason. We had guard dogs- they should have or could have been pets but they were trained to kill. My father had an arms license, and had trained me in using a shotgun in case someone trespassed or worse- attacked us while he was away on business. At night, big lights came on that shined all the way around the grounds. It felt like we lived in a compound. All the exterior doors were checked 3 times at night before bed. The house was in the middle of nowhere, away from fascists that might attack us, but I think that the days in Harlow really affected him. By trying to keep us safe, he almost shut us away from everyone; we lived so far away from our relatives that we hardly ever saw them.

This need for remaining safe became part of my life too. This same almost paranoid safety issue means that I cannot sleep with my bedroom door shut. I cannot walk with someone behind me, and I cannot sleep until I have checked that my front door is shut at least 3 times.

The skinhead element has also played a big part in my life. Of course, now I know that there were 2 different streams of skinheads, and it was only by speaking to a skinhead, who bless him, was shocked that his appearance scared the hell out of me, for me to learn about the history from him and then doing my own research that I started seeing people who wear Dr. Martens boots in a different light. But for many years I associated these people as racists. In the same way I get told, ‘But you’re alright, we just mean other immigrants,’ line, I too held similar thoughts.

I was bullied at school and racially attacked all the time throughout in Year 9 and 10. With only 5 BAMEs in the entire school, my teachers were ill prepared in taking action, thus I was left to defend myself. It affected my performance immensely. It was when I reached Sixth Form and saw south Asians only hanging out with other south Asians that I realise now, was their form of creating their safety net.

We know that we learn our values and morals from our family. Mine was so scarred by their treatment in the 1980s, that it had ensured its safety by creating an impenetrable fortress. My views changed and developed because I ventured further, spoke and started dialogue with people. We found common ground. But there are so many people out there scarred by their experiences who have never opened up to the idea of even trying to break away from their safety net, to see that there are good people out there, on both sides. And now with another surge in racist incidents, I wonder whether these incidents are going to create another generation of people, who feel untrustworthy of creating friendships with people from other backgrounds. 

Until next time,
Sen x

Get in touch with me:
You can find me on:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Time I Stood Up

Late last year I decided to stand as a Candidate for the Green Party in the ward that I live in. Being a candidate was a real eye opener for me in dipping a toe in local public life. I was very lucky though to have the support of my friends and the party around me. I had an overall positive experience, though there were times when I wish I hadn't stood. In this post I will be just talking about a few of those points and experiences. Just as a precautionary, in case someone decides to use anything against me or the party, these are my opinions, not the party's.

My Hopes:
I went in with this thought that maybe other councillors worked together despite the pressures and cuts from central government. I thought that perhaps in local government people worked together to solve the issues facing their people, in this case, the residents of Cambridge. I was so wrong. But, the beast that reality is didn't show itself until about a month before the election. I may sound naive with my preconceived ideas of how the city councillors worked. I had been to a couple city council meetings a few years back to watch as a member of the public. Both of the meetings went without incidence. But I think my notions were very much based on the workings of Cambridge Green Party. I was made to feel very welcome from Day 1 and got involved in many aspects of the party. At every meeting I went to I felt so included; everyone was nice and really just amazing to me and to each other. I don't think I thought things outside, as in within the council would be different. I was wrong, obviously.

The reality:
I was shocked when I saw a video clip of a Lib Dem councillor insulting a Labour councillor at a local Homelessness Strategy meeting. I felt sick. Here were councillors meeting to find better ways to help one of the most vulnerable group of people but instead they were behaving like Westminster oxygen thieves. As you will know already if you have read my older posts, I experienced homelessness when I was 18 until I moved into my current home. To have these people that we voted for wasting time really made me question what I was really standing for. Because I would never become them, but if I was never going to become them, then who would I be? When Oscar Gillespie, the Councillor from Green Party told us about the poor behaviour amongst the councillors, I realised that it perhaps didn't matter if I won, because perhaps even then other councillors would probably shout me down. Would I be able to enhance the daily lives of my residents with all the politics and shenanigans? I also realised that there was a reason why Trump was doing so well in USA. As much as people love to hate ''Career Politicians'', it’s only a certain type of people who do well in politics. None of this stopped me from trying to win. I wanted to win. But I also worried about how this would affect my life financially. I am currently finishing a degree, and seeing that city councillors get such a low allowance worried me about how I would be able to carry on paying the rent. It also made me realise this position really is for the rich or the retired. You see, even though it is meant to be a part-time, I can't see how anyone can be a good, competent councillor as well as work full-time.

The shock:
One of my actions created a mini Twitter storm, and looking back at it now, yes I did feel like standing down, mainly due to fear, but also the abuse. I didn’t do anything hugely bad, I corrected a mistake as soon as possible. I put a poster up in public property; a bus stop by Pizza hut on Mill Road. It had a QR code to my video that a local hero- Antony Carpen had made, and it also contained my name and saying to vote for me. I didn’t think to add the imprint on it (don’t ask, I’ve already had a hard time with it as is).I took this poster off as soon as I realised my mistake- the very same evening, I also put a poster in a local shop- they accepted it, and it was also missing an imprint. Now, if I had known I was doing something wrong, I would not have put it on Twitter. That would be silly. But anyhow, someone retweeted it and it opened the floodgates. Another political party got hold of it and told me I would get my agent fired and the usual scaremongering. They also threatened to fine us. We didn’t have a lot of money anyhow and it really scared us. Friends came to my defence and one friend even wrote a blog post about it here. While this was all happening, another party member added me on Facebook, I thought to myself that people were adding me to show their support, but I was completely wrong. I was in a panic, and wrote a Facebook post about it, and being reassured by friends to not stand down. This person added me to just spy on my personal account and then write a scathing email to all the campaign team- which maybe they didn’t realise that I was a part of- something I really didn’t need it at that time. Perhaps other parties are different in not having such a close knit family feeling, but we certainly do so that made the shock even more real and it really hurt to see that. But to see friends and one other candidate putting themselves in the firing line was greatly astonishing. I also went to the shop the next day and put in the imprint. The photo I shared on Twitter included the photo of the poster with a smaller QR code with a message written in English but phonetically in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. Thinking back on it now, I feel like maybe the other party people were just angry that I was trying to get people involved that they largely ignored: the ethnic minorities. During my campaign, I spoke to a number of people who are not white, and they all said they felt disenfranchised. I think that says more that I need to. I will write a post about that soon, one day.

The Accomplishments:
Since December, I have I feel really become an active member of the party. Obviously standing as a candidate would do that, but I’m also a part of the Campaign Committee and Co-Chair of the local party. I initially decided to stand because I was pretty depressed. I was going to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions every week, and had a very bad year; I had had a break down earlier that year. My close friend Ed had cancer and it was very difficult to come to terms with his illness, and then in October he passed away. All in all, including other things, I was having a very shitty year, and part of the CBT is to make changes to your own life and to really work at getting better. I thought by standing I would be able to combat a lot of my issues surrounding depression and anxiety. I did and I feel tons better. But I really don’t think I would have been able to come out of the Twitter storm stuff and the horrible emails without the help of everyone at the party and my friends.

My other achievement was writing the Homelessness policy for the Cambridge Green Party Manifesto 2016. I sent a copy of it away to 2 prominent charities in Cambridge and received positive feedback from them. It has a seal of approval from people who work with homeless people every day. For me, that is a great achievement. I feel like although I don’t know where my career is headed at least I have done something with my degree even before graduating. The very short version of it can be found here ( pp.15-16). I guess a minor achievement was not embarrassing myself in front of Natalie Bennett who came to our fundraiser in April. I was star struck- we all have our own heroes- she’s one of mine.

A Long Day:
On the day of the election, we were out before the sunrise and got in the next day at sunrise too. It was a long day; I spent a lot it walking back and forth from our headquarters to the Polling Station to leafleting. We even had Natalie Bennett come to see us and give a speech! By the time it came to going in for the count, we were all pretty exhausted.

An Incident:
At the Guild Hall, a few of us were in the Petersfield counting area and next to us was the Queen Edith’s count. I had heard of a certain other candidate standing there but hadn’t met him before. Then around some time after midnight, in between the next batch of counting, he approached me and started asking me about my parentage- I told him where my family are from in India. I thought perhaps we could talk about something we had in common- he is from another part of India himself- something he told me as a reply. I asked him about how it was looking for him and he told me it wasn’t good and about how many “resources” the national party put into his campaign and how Lords had helped him with canvassing- very much showing off. And I said it was a shame, and that local politics was different to central politics and asked what he stood for. He started telling he was a businessman and also made certain comments about ‘working hard is the only way to make it’. When I tried to tell him about recent research that says social mobility is no more. He told me to shut up as he hadn’t finished. He said it in such a way that was rude and also in a way that he thought that we were in India in the 1950s, and to be quiet. I decided to overlook that, mainly because I didn’t want to muddy the name of my party by saying what I really should have said and I was also very shocked. He then carried on telling me how he came to England with not a lot of money and made a lot more by working really hard, and that with hard work anyone can be rich. He then asked me if I was married, I pointed out my fiancé who was helping us the whole day since 4.30 am and was now helping with the counting. He looked shocked and was visibly 'disturbed', as my fiancé in his eyes and my mother's eyes is unacceptable because he is an English, white male. He quickly realised this and just said, ‘Oh! O-kay!’

He then asked me, ‘Can I ask… I don’t understand why second generation girls always sleep with goras?’

I mean shocking right? I really didn’t want to speak to him anymore. He was trying to embarrass me, trying to 'cut my nose'. I told him I loved my fiancé and just tried to be pleasant despite that. He asked me about my family and I was honest with him. Though when I told him a little bit about my childhood, he did start showing me more respect- mainly due to telling him what my father did for a living, even though it has nothing to do with me. He then also went on to tell me that next time I visit India, I ought to go to his state, as it’s clean unlike ‘Punjab which is very dirty’ and not very nice, that I should see ‘the real India’, that has ‘educated people there’. Luckily, a fellow party member came and sat between us and it kind of ended the conversation. But in our first ever meeting, he tried to embarrass me and insulted me, made sweeping generalisations about a whole group of people- of Punjab and 2nd generation British Indian women. On top of that, he showed off how much the national party threw money at him. I really don’t think I would have come out of it not feeling shame- had I not been so tired and feeling happier in myself as a person. Shame and honour are 2 things that are very important to many people from South Asian communities, I am confident that he knew what he was saying- he was trying to bring shame upon me and question my honour. We also discussed integration of communities and trying to get more ethnic minorities to vote and stand, and we also spoke about other things- we didn’t agree on a lot of stuff and we agreed on other stuff, but what he said to me personally is what I’ve highlighted the most here.

Also another incident took place as I was going into the main hall for the results- a lady who was from another party observing the Petersfield count decided to come up to me and patronisingly told me how great it was that I tried unlike the 2 other parties. It was said in a bitchy way and, having already suffered from remarks by someone else, I really didn’t need that too.

So, we didn’t do so well, I came second. I didn’t really knock on doors as much- mainly due to having 2 bad experiences from residents who were really rude- it really scared me. I also don’t think we as a party realised how much Jeremy Corbyn would affect our votes. But we live and learn, next time, I’ll be even more confident. I did my best, and I will stand again. We as a party will improve and learn from this. I personally feel that I have grown as a person, and next time I will make sure I work on door-knocking but also I hope people will be nicer too. Just because we are standing in local elections doesn’t mean we don’t have hearts. If we’re meant to take crap then we have to become heartless- do people really want people with tough skins to stand for them or do they want people just like them? Career politicians or everyday folk? Which is it?

A really amazing feeling was walking down the road on the day and people just stopping me and telling me that they had voted for me. It was a surreal feeling, people had voted for me and they believed in me. 321 people voted for me, and though it’s a fraction in the grand scheme of things, for me it’s 321 individuals who believed in me. I am most thankful to you. I am also thankful to my friends both old and new, who despite their ill health and or busy schedules came out and helped me by leafleting. My special thanks also goes my fiancé who helped put up the poster boards around the city and got sun burnt as a result. He also leafleted with me come rain or shine, and walked over 18 miles on the election day delivering early morning leaflets, telling at the Polling Stations, going home to feed the Chairman Meow (I will write a post on our cat soon), and then helped with the count as well as doing his own life things.

Until next time,
Sen x (aka Sharon Kaur)

Facebook Green party Campaign page:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

BBC's Murdered By My Father Review

I just watched 'Murdered By My Father' on the BBCiplayer. It's about an honour killing where the father ends up killing his daughter, Salma, for having a boyfriend despite being matched to a young man whom she never chose to marry. Of course there's more to it but I would highly suggest watching it.

I have been aware of honour killings since I was little. It's not a new phenomenon. I'd heard of incidences happening in India, once where a young lad was found in his farm well dead because of being sweet on a girl from the same village. And I even heard about them here, where the in-laws burnt their daughter-in-law for wearing western clothes outside (yeah, I know), despite growing up away from the Asian community. Perhaps it's just my family- I doubt that- the incidences weren't discussed as being something evil- in fact it was always as almost something to be justified in a way- most of the time it was blamed on the girl for bringing shame. Whatever the girl suffered- it was explained away as punishment for her own wrongdoing. It was discussed as gossip, people delighted in someone else's downfall- as if the girl's family were at fault; the remaining siblings would be 'written off'; the entire family would be outcasted; small trivial things would be blamed such as the mother working instead of mothering. It was something that I was threatened with as a 'if' I ever did anything to bring shame or as my father put it- 'cut his nose', he would kill me. It nearly happened to me when I ran away and it was something I only narrowly escaped. Though the reasoning behind my near honour death was very different to the one portrayed in the film, it still held a lot of similarities. Mainly the aftermath- I had guilt trips from my paternal grandma to go back, Salma got the texts. Thankfully I refused, regrettably she fell for it.

Whilst watching the film, I kept wondering when the father's mask would slip, and out would come the anger that you can just lurking under the surface. The reality of the sex scene at the wedding is pretty unrealistic. Those aunties at the wedding would have smelt a fishy situation a mile away. The actor who played the father was amazingly good at portraying the character, it was easy to see the undertones. I watched through it, didn't skip despite worrying for the girl, just because I wondered how it would lead up to the inevitable ending, and afterwards some thoughts came to mind.

Okay, so, I thought it was way too downplayed; the whole affair was too sedate and perhaps because it was a film for non south asians to watch. I apologise it that sounds a bit bad. I also wonder how much damage this will do the muslim communities, it's not just a muslim issue. It happens in other South Asian communities too. I feel that because of what's currently happening in the world, another culture may have made a bigger impact. It would have been nice for muslims to not be seen as bad people for once by the BBC (just listen to Nihal on the BBC Asian Network). Because of this, had they chosen another culture, it would have come forth as more shocking and just as realistic.

I wasn't that shocked by it as I thought it would be, sure the murder is just horrible. Now, because I know and have heard of girls/ women being burned alive, perhaps it wasn't as bad. It doesn't mean that I think that honour killings aren't horrific. I still remember an incident that I was told about 12 years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. I spent 3 years trying to get a regional level Black and Minority Ethnic organisation to make awareness of honour killings it's top priority. They didn't listen. So back to the film, making non-asians aware of the issue of honour killings is very important. But if it doesn't shock me and other people from the South Asian community then how will that make a difference? Perhaps it was an awareness film, but even if it was also to shock or shame people, would it even work? Shame is a complicated concept, in that there's no one way to bring it onto the family. Perhaps I have lived outside the community too long as what I did find shocking was the father's friend telling him that Salma doesn't need an education- that it'll make her too free or give her ideas.

I also felt that perhaps there should have been more of an emphasis on the fact that it's the pressure of being judged and shunned by 'the community' that can have a huge role to play in some incidents. Sharam/shame is such a massive concept in South Asian communities- often only linked to the actions of a female. The father refers to the shame his daughter has brought to the family. My mother won't accept my own personal choices because she's scared of what her community will think. The community has a huge part to play in this film and in honour killings, and I believe that it's true ugly side wasn't shown enough. Some people will kill, others will disown or simply brush the shame under the carpet. Shame and honour together can have devastating results.

I remember asking my grandma what would have happened if I was a boy and ran away from home? She told me she would have broken my bones. But we both knew that she was lying.

Until next time,
Sen x

Find me here:
Facebook Blog page:
Facebook Green party Campaign page:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Monday, 1 February 2016

Mill Road Depot Site Supplementary Planning Document Second Workshop

On Tuesday, I attended the workshop regarding the future of the Mill Road Depot site, and what it would become in the future. The site is council owned and is soon to become vacant. Back in November at the first workshop, the local residents had discussed wanting more affordable housing along with some community and green space, and as the space is owned by the council, it seems that this was possible. The meeting was attended by various councillors including the Green Party Market ward councillor Oscar Gillespie, local residents, and the council consultants working on the future of the site. The consultants started with the feedback of what they learnt from the meeting and then presented us with what they had put together from the feedback.

There were 3 important things of note regarding the site:

- 2 areas on the site that contained contamination of fuel tanks
- there was a broad deficiency is open spaces in the area
- they wanted to incorporate the Chisholm Trail into the site

At the last meeting, people had put forward ideas about having social and affordable housing. There were  mixed views about student housing and having a space for small businesses. People had also wanted green spaces with play areas. The consultants showed us various different ideas of green spaces that included linear and pocketed parks. There was also an idea to plant more trees. Within the concept of having around 167 homes on the site, people put forward the idea of having a car-free zone and the possibility to have an area to charge electric cars.

With regards to the housing element, people wanted sustainable design that was incorporated with the architecture of local design. There were strong feelings against pretend victorian houses the likes of which can be found on Cromwell Road. There was also a mutual acceptance that there should be only one point of entrance for cars.

With regards to the design evolution, the consultants spoke of the key constraints on the site. This included the existing garages towards the Hooper Street end, the railway to one side and Mill road at the entrance. The contamination would need cleaning up and there were also existing grade listed buildings made up of coach houses towards the Kingston street side and further a listed building at the entrance. There was also a school near the Mill Road end of the site. There was talk of having a linear park against the railway, but it would only serve the local development rather than the wider community. The pocket parks were seen to be a better use of space but we were told they could only be in certain areas due to the existence of trees, This was problematic due to the park is the north that was too close to the Mill Road bridge. There was a possibility of having a north/south entrance.

The general consensus was to have tall apartment buildings about 5 storeys- against the railway and have a contemporary design to the houses with garages, the likes of which can be found near the Grafton Centre. I felt there was a sense of horror from the majority of people present at the idea of something similar to that here. There was a general no-no towards having pretend victorian houses. The consultants also suggested that the coach houses could potentially be reused by being converted into 2 bedroomed houses. They presented us with 6 options, of which I felt most people liked option 5 (pictured below).

With about 50 people in attendance, there were around 6 tables with 8 people huddled around it. During the workshop, I found out that the small organisations that exist at Hooper street would also have to leave. This includes the Women's Resource Centre. And seeing as Anglia Ruskin University are closing down its Nursery, I felt it was important that we ensured that our feedback form on our table said that we needed both of these services in the development. My suggestion was to used the 4 separate coach houses as spaces for local organisations and small businesses. Oscar Gillespie also suggested having a safe haven for LGBTQI young people from Cambridge who currently do not have a place to meet. A PACT- Petersfield Area Community Trust member also suggested having solar panels on each household to make the development sustainable. I also strongly suggested not having the Chisholm Trail go through the development and keeping the area car-free, with no garages attached to homes. This is where the idea of having an underground car park was put forward by Richard Robertson, Petersfield ward councillor. The main concern of the current garage tenants was what would happen to the garages if the land was to be developed.The current garage tenants who use it for their cars agreed that they would be happy if they too got a space within the underground car park. On our table, we discussed the possibility of perhaps having 40% social housing instead of the 20%.

I've just edited the photo above with what ideas our table came up with.
The following list is some of the ideas other people from the workshop came up with:

- A tall building like Dale's Brewery to have it match the area so over 6 storeys high
- Gallery/ Artist's studios within the development
- a few households given to Cambridge Housing Society
- Rather than 0.6 cars per household there should be 0.3 per home
- it was pointed out that the Mill Road entrance was dangerous
- A comment that the garages for each household was unnecessary
- Youth housing
- only one entrance
- The development should have a theme e.g Love Identity
- There should be a car club, or a community car
- Anti-social behaviour possible to be designed out
- Some were concerned about the skyline
- Ideas to have a wildlife planting schemes
- concerns over shading by big, tall buildings
- Someone else also suggested the coach houses could be used by start-up and organisations

There was a moment during the workshop session that I realised just how much and what this site meant to so many people. It's possibly the first time so many people have had the power to have their views heard in this capacity, and in that sense it is exciting. But it is also a development where people have so many things depending on it to deliver the many things that the area is lacking in. We, the Petersfield residents are starved of a community space, a green open space, and affordable housing. I feel a little concerned that perhaps by trying to build all these elements we will end up with sub-par level of everything,

Key dates gone and for future to keep in mind:

Evidence Review                                  September-December
Design Development                            November- January
Preparation of SDP                               February-March
6 weeks of consultations                       Mid May-June
Prepare Final SDP for Adoption           September
Committee/Adoption                             Autumn

As always,
Until Next time,
Sen x

Find me here:
Facebook Blog page:
Facebook Campaign page: (as standing as a Green Party Candidate for my ward)
Twitter: @senlanoire

Thursday, 14 January 2016

India- Part 1: The Journey

At this time of the year, the Northern part of India lays under a bed of thick, winter fog for most of the day. It looks quite similar to the smog that Beijing is suffering from, though this dhond is 'definitely not pollution'. It gets thicker nearer rivers, and let me tell you, you'll know when you're near a river, because it's so thick that you can't see anything at all apart from white cloud like smoke in patches. But because of the dhond, it becomes quite dangerous at times to drive, delays almost all the flights, and makes the sun look quite pretty.

Getting to Amritsar from England was hard going. You'd think Air India would know that due to the fog at this time of the year- every year, they would change the timings of their flights beforehand, but they didn't so we ended up stuck at the New Delhi Airport for hours. The first thing that struck me was the sticky heat, as we got off the plane even though it would be the same plane that we would get back on to get to Punjab. The next was how rude the security staff were, as we had to have another security check when we got off the plane. The female security lady, unbeknownst to her that I am fluent in Hindi, insulted me, calling me a lot of names just because she was in a bad mood. That was the first instance I wanted to board a plane back to England. We were kept in horrendously hot conditions for almost 2 hours without being offered water, even though the stop over wasn't meant to be longer than 30 minutes. With us was my mum's elderly aunt, who was joining us for this leg of the journey.

When we finally got on the plane, it took everyone over 40 minutes to find their seats, as most people just sat wherever they wanted. Then of course the stewardesses had to move people and find their correct seats. I got told by the elderly gentleman that this was normal, and it was kind of funny to watch too. In the end, and elderly Sardar decided to take it upon himself to help the other lost passengers whilst Stewards went off, probably to hide. Finally, after everyone was seated, the wouldn't get any clearance so we were stuck on the runway for almost an hour and a half. So there we were, thirsty due to the dry heat, most of us were exhausted from the 12 hours previously spent on another flight coming to India, now going to Punjab. Because of the mean, rude Air India lady mum and I got when we checked in at Birmingham Airport, we didn't get seated together, something everyone in our cabin agreed was out of line. Instead, I ended up a few rows and seat across from her. It was probably a good thing, as I got chatting to people and realised Punjabi people are actually quite nice, and friendly, funny people. That may sound odd but I don't really know many Punjabis. Everyone treated everyone else like family, made jokes to pass the time, a man shouted, 'We're here!' after the plane sped up to go but then slowed down. It was pretty hilarious. I felt really happy at that time. It's a good memory.

I was meant to go for 10 days but stayed for only 6 nights (more on that later). What I found was a place that in many ways was completely unfamiliar, but in others shockingly the way I left it as a child. As some of you will know, I lived in India for most of my childhood, after my parents sent me there from England aged 4 or 5. When I lived there, I was in Goraya, District Jalandhar, for about 4 years before being sent to a boarding school in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh.

At first glance, the India I left behind 16 years ago seemed to still be there. If only it was a little more dirtier, and dustier but then that could just be because I haven't been back for a long time. The highways were pretty well made. These did not exist 16 years ago. Of course some people still drive on the wrong side but still- no pot holes. I even saw a Sardar riding motorcycle whilst texting! We got off the plane in Amritsar (Ambarsar, as the Punjabis call in), 3 hours later than intended, totalling almost a 22 hour journey by the time we got to my mother's village. Because of these new highways, I couldn't recognise any of the towns leading up to Goraya which saddened me. It was only when we got near to the railway line in Goraya that I finally recognised where we were. For one thing, there wasn't an overhead 4 lane highway when I used to live there. I even recognised the shoe shop I always went to!

My biggest surprise lay as we touched down; Amritsar Airport looked amazing. I did think beforehand that it might be a small runway with tractors bringing our luggage, as I saw in Bride and Prejudice film, in fact it's feat of architecture, and brought tears of pride to my eyes. That's really when I realised that there are gems in amongst the dhond which isn't pollution, as my 2nd uncle kept telling me...

I'll try to write up the next part as soon as I can. That's where I meet my mum's family, stay at the farm house and talk about sewage! What fun!

Until next time,
Sen x
Get in touch with me:
You can find me on:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


I've been finding it hard to write anything of value for the past few months. I've written a few posts but have found that because there's something I have been trying to hide, I can't quite focus on anything new. This is my attempt at trying to let out what I'm feeling so that perhaps it will help me feel less anguish.

As I've written before, I am at an age where I am having to experience grief more often than I would ever want. We all reach an age where we become conscious of death and its impact on us, and for me this process began a couple of years ago. In my own opinion, our grandparents passing away isn't the same as when our friends do. Maybe it's because we never think that our friends won't be there when we have kids, or at our weddings or when we're old. We do know that our grandparents will go at some point. I suppose we don't consciously think that one of our friends will pass away at any moment.

My best friend passed away on October the 6th last year. As he lay there in the hospice, fighting to live, I was told by his wife to say whatever I needed to say as he wasn't long for this world. Ed had been breathing heavily, struggling to keep hold of life. How had it come to this? There was so much I wanted to say but I just couldn't. He squeezed my hand, acknowledging my presence. He had held on until I arrived at half 9 that evening, waiting for me. Two hours later, he was gone. And he fought, he wasn't going to go without a fight. I wondered whether I deserved to be there. I had been a shitty friend. He had been fighting Cancer for a while and at one point I had gone dark on him. I just couldn't cope. Thinking about it now, I am glad his wife didn't have to go through it on her own. I wished, prayed and pleaded to god to take some of my life and give it to him. It sounds absurd now. But at the time, I just thought- anything to stop this

'Who knows what the future holds', as he would always tell me, kept going through my mind constantly, and it still does. I keep wanting to call him- he always knew how to calm me and put some sense into me. Most of all, he knew how to comfort me at a terrible time, then of course I realise with the greatest dread that it's his death that I mourn. 

For the past few months, I had lost all hope, not wanting to go on. He wasn't supposed to go yet. Fairytales are a lie. Life is not fair. I had stopped doing everything. I wasn't functioning. My mother couldn't understand why I was feeling this way for someone who wasn't family, let alone just a friend. But that's the thing, my friends took the place where family is meant to be. And that was the thing about Ed, he saw the best in everyone. He managed to see something in me that I didn't know I had. He saw me as a fierce young woman, and helped me find it, and overcome so much. He was patient and kind to me when I had no one in this world. I was so proud to have him as a friend.

It hurts every time science has a new discovery related to cancer. It hurts when I see messages from his wife and realise that her and their little son are always going to feel his absence. It was only by accident the doctors found his tumour, and it is only recently that I am thankful of the fact that from that day on he received the best care and treatment he possibly could. He knew he was loved, supported, and cared from until his last breath and for that I'm deeply grateful.

Until next time,
Sen x